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All-girl teen coding team develops app that rates restaurants on COVID-19 safety

Image: A woman codes on a computer
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Story at a glance

  • Young teen innovators are starting to be recognized for their advancements in the field of mobile app development.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has created a less than optimal situation for both restaurants and their patrons, with often unclear guidelines on what safety precautions to take during reopening.
  • A group of five female teens are currently developing an app called Safe Bites, designed to help restaurant patrons review restaurants according to their ability to provide COVID-19-friendly service.

Generation Z has been making headlines all year long for their savvy, often political use of technology, and it makes clear sense why. Often referred to as the first generation of “digital natives,” Gen Z is known for their lifetime immersion in technology and how it affects the way they learn and communicate. 

It comes as no surprise, then, that many Gen Z’ers are adept at using personal technology, and are already figuring out innovative ways to make a social impact using technology. One such way is through the creation of breakthrough mobile applications, some of which are being coded and marketed by those not even old enough to vote. 

There’s Ariana Sokolov, a 19-year-old who first co-created Trill Project, an app that promotes mental health awareness among LGBTQ+ teens, when she was just 16. Tanvi Khot is an 18-year-old who created an app called Aegis, which uses the buddy system to keep women safe on college campuses. Then there’s an all-girl coding team of five, Anuhea Tao, Athena Jiang-Qin, Elsa Bosemark, Luna Jiang-Qin and Selene Jiang-Qin, who recently won the youth category first prize in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s App Inventor Hackathon. 

“There was a sense of helplessness that was settling down. And a big theme in our workplace is empowerment,” said Selim Tezel, co-chair of the MIT App Inventor Hackathon 2020. “We wanted to give them a context in which they could be creative and sort of get rid of that feeling of helplessness.”

It was exactly that feeling of helplessness that motivated Tao to co-create Safe Bites, an app designed for customers to rate a restaurant’s COVID-19 precautions, after her father’s restaurant closed down. “When we started this hackathon, it was like, ‘Oh, we want to do something to actually help our communities and do something impactful we’re actually passionate about,’ ” Tao told CNN.

The award-winning application, which is still in the development phase, was conceived with the purpose of “finding restaurants dedicated to keeping customers and employees safe from COVID-19,” according to their website. “Through our review app, users can find the places that best follow CDC pandemic regulations, while providing resources for users to support local businesses during quarantine.​”

“Though it started small, with a group of teens, this can become more,” Bosemark said to CNN, adding a phrase she’s often told by her father: “You’re taking lemons and making lemonade.”